LAW SCHOOL SURVIVAL |
Entering law school is a tough choice to make. For some lucky ones, lawyering runs into the family; few feels like being compelled by situation, while for most of us, being a lawyer is just another dream. Yet, for whatever reason, once you have made up your mind to enter law school, be sure to become resolute about your decision. Do not embark on something you think you cannot bring into completion. As one of my favorite professors has said, law schooling entails huge investments - of time, energy, and finances. You could not afford to lose that investment, for that would mean loss of great opportunities as well.
For the newbies, I will attempt to share in the following disquisition some valuable tips, which I believe have kept me afloat in this fierce law school battlefield. However, I do not claim expertise on the matter. As each individual is unique so are the strategies varied from person to person.
Unlike in College where everything is seemed to be spoonfed, law school teaches you to be independent. Competition is tight and you cannot rely on anyone to rescue you whenever you needed help. As they say, in law school, only the fittest survives.
In law school, being independent means discovering answers to your own questions. Even during class recitations, seldom would there be a professor who would tell you the correct answer and even in the final exams, your mind would just be left wondering why the hell did you get that grades! If at all, answers begin to unravel only during review and even then, doubts still linger in your damn head.
Law school education follows the Socratic method which has been popularized in Harvard Law School. It is based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking among participants. Not only does it help develop critical thinking, it also enhances the ability of law students to express/articulate themselves. If a doctor needs his knowledge and medical equipment, our investments include effrontery (kapal ng mukha), logic, and a bit of imagination. Loss for words mean loss of income so better make a good investment on these.
Most law students have this mistaken belief that route memorization will help you survive this Socratic method. I boldly say, they are wrong! Learning the law is not achieved through memorization, rather, it is the understanding of the reason or the policy behind the law that counts. We can amend, revise or even reword the letters of the law, but we cannot just change the policy that gives it life. Thus, knowing the concepts and being able to express it in your own words will help you pull it off not only during recitations but also in written exams. Understanding will also ensure that there would be a retention of the law in our head so that come bar review time, recall would not be as hard as learning the concepts for the first time. This way, law becomes concrete instead of being undecipherable concepts fleeting in our short-term memories.
Everyday life in law school is like watching a thriller movie with some bits of drama at times. Thriller because everyday is recitation day. No exceptions, no exclusions. So if you have damned failed to prepare, meaning to study your lessons, you are doomed! Nothing will spare you from embarassment for public display of ignorance, except ofcourse to pray hard that your name is not among those for the deathrow. A wrong answer means you will be guillotined. Drama bacause, even if you have shed a gallon of tears already this will not save you from the mind-blowing questions thrown by your professor (law school profs are robots, they feel nothing okay). If you think flimsy reasons like the death of your lovely puppy or your running an errand will do you any good, think again because it will bring you more harm than you could have ever imagined. In short, the cardinal rule is: do not go to class unprepared! You may forget to brush your teeth or to take a bath, but never forget to study in your damn law school life! That’s unpardonable!
The Philippines is also a blend of both civil law and common law systems. You will learn these concepts in one of your first year law subjects. Since the Philippines is a civil law country, we give primordial importance to laws enacted by Congress as these are the very ones interpreted by our Courts. As such, emphasis should be given to the study of the provisions of these laws otherwise known in law school parlance as, codal provisions. With these codal provisions you will never go wrong! Second, we also pay attention to Supreme Court decisions as these do not only interpret laws as they apply to varied circumstances but it also lay down precendents in deciding subsequent similar cases unless such rule is pro hac vice or applicable to such situation only.
While reading voluminous cases is a bit exhaustive and tiring, you can find pleasure in them and at the same time learn how to think and write like a real lawyer. As you know, the legal profession employs legalese language. Think of it as specialized technical language that only aliens speak and understand. If you are not an alien, you cannot speak and understand them. So if you want to be an alien, better to know their language. What is the best way to learn this legalese language than by reading these cases. While it may be tempting at times to resort to reading case digests, think of reading fullblown cases as an investment or a preparation for your chosen career. Of course you would not fool yourself into wanting to become a pirated version of a lawyer - half-baked and substandard.
Come examination time, you would learn the proliferation of what they call as samplex. This is a copy of a previous exam on a subject taught by the same professor. Oftentimes, due to bulk of work, professors have this tendency to repeat past examinations on a similar subject. Many law students capitalize on these materials. Instead of studying the whole subject matter, they study only the samplex and end up getting high grades. This may do you good for the time being, but I bet you, come bar exams you would have to pay the price for fooling yourself.
Finally, in law school, truth is relative for it be otherwise, then it will be a futility to study law and to have a judicial system set into motion when there is nothing more to argue. Just as a coin has two faces, so is the law that affords multiple interpretations.